Ice, snow, rain, frost and gales – British winter weather can be tricky to drive in. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that there are more accidents at this time of year – insurers Insure The Box found there was a 14 per cent increase across the UK during autumn and winter, according to the website Motoring Research.
Here are some winter driving tips to help you stay safe …
Allow extra time to get your van ready before your journey. You may need to clear your windows, mirrors, lights and the top of your roof of snow and ice – you’re legally required to be able to see properly out of all your windows. Make sure you have plenty of fuel in the tank– especially as your van is likely to use more fuel in cold weather.
Make sure your phone is fully charged before you set off, in case you do need to call for help or just let someone know about a delay. Consider getting a charger for your van if you don’t have one.
When it’s snowy, drive in as high a gear as possible, use low revs, accelerate and brake gently, and brake in good time before you come to a bend. All this should help to stop your wheels spinning. The RAC recommends moving off in second gear for the same reason. Stick to main roads as much as possible, as they are more likely to be clear of snow and ice.
In wet weather, stopping distances will be at least double those required on dry roads. In snowy and icy conditions, they can be up to ten times greater. The Highway Code (available at www.highwaycodeuk.co.uk) has a full list of stopping distances for different types of vehicle and weather: make sure you know these and stick to them.
If you do start to skid, try to keep calm. Take your foot off the accelerator and gently steer into the direction you’re skidding in. Don’t brake heavily – it’s counterintuitive, but can make things worse.
The law requires you to use headlights when visibility is very bad, for example in heavy snow. The Highway Code defines very bad visibility as less than 100 metres – about the length of a football pitch. You should use dipped headlights. Don’t rely on daytime running lights, because they don’t always illuminate the back of your car.
You can use fog lights too, but you need to turn them off when visibility improves as they will dazzle other drivers and can obscure your brake lights. You shouldn’t use them in the rain either as it will make them even brighter and more dazzling, and it’s against the law to leave them on when your van is parked.
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